Alaska prisons to open for visitation after year-long COVID closure

Goose Creek Correctional Center
Goose Creek Correctional Center. (Photo by Ellen Lockyer/Alaska Public Media)

The state Department of Corrections plans to open visitation on Wednesday between fully vaccinated Alaskans in its custody and public visitors like family members.

It’s the first opportunity for public visitation in over a year after Corrections officials closed all non-essential access to facilities in March of 2020 as the pandemic was taking hold in Alaska.

The recent DOC announcement on visitation comes with some caveats: A number of recent positive tests at the Anchorage and Ketchikan correctional centers mean those facilities remain closed. And only inmates who’ve had at least two weeks since their final dose of a vaccine can receive visitors.

A recent court fight and a judge’s decision caused the DOC to drop a similar vaccination requirement last week on who could meet in person with their lawyers.

According to the Department of Corrections, about 1,840 inmates have completed a full vaccination series, as of its last update on April 11. On Monday, DOC had about 4,500 people in custody.

DOC said those hoping to visit loved ones behind bars need to make an appointment and will be subject to COVID-19 screening measures, including temperature checks. A mask over the nose and mouth is also required, and no physical contact will be allowed.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

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